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Lay judges in Sweden

Lay judges in Administrative Courts (Sweden)

In connection with the General Assembly of AEAJ in Lisbon the Working Group Independence and Efficiency discussed certain questions related to the topic Lay judges in Administrative Courts. The Swedish representatives gave in summary the following answers to the discussed questions.

Do you have lay judges in your countries? Yes. A legal regime for lay judges is established in Sweden.

In what kind of courts? Which instances? The Lay judges serve in the General Courts, (District Courts (first instance), Courts of Appeal (second instance) and the General Administrative Courts (Administrative Courts (first instance), Administrative Courts of Appeal (second instance). The Lay judges does not serve in the Supreme Court or The Supreme Administrative Court.

How are lay judges nominated? Politically or in other ways? The Lay judges are nominated in a politically way. (The Lay judge is first nominated by a political party to the municipal council or the county council. The Lay judge is thereafter elected by one of the last mentioned authorities.)

How many lay judges serve in the same bench? Three lay judges serve in the first instance. In the second instance serve two lay judges.

What is the purpose with lay judges? To represent the public: to make sure that the public may gain insight into the judiciary and its judicial/administrative operations. The lay judge shall also complement the judge with local knowledge and in some cases special competence.

Do they swear an oath? Yes.

Do they have an individual vote? Yes. Since 1983 Swedish lay judges have an individual vote. A lay judge’s vote has the same weight as a professional judge’s vote.

Can they overrule the professional judge? Yes.
Is there any discussion going on in your country concerning the role of the lay judges? Yes, it is an ongoing debate concerning the role of the lay judges. The Government has also recently decided that the system shall be reviewed. The commission shall be completed June 28, 2013. It shall, among other things, be investigated whether it is possible and reasonable to reduce the lay judges participation in trials at first and second instance.
What is your personal experience of working with lay judges? The lay judge’s participation in the adjudication process can be valuable but not always. The lay judge´s experience may be a good complement in connection with assessment issues for example for evaluation of evidence and reasonability issues. In other questions regarding for example legal questions or procedural questions, the lay judge’s participation is once in a while valuable. In tax cases the lay judge´s participation can strongly be questioned. 
Do you have others, besides the professional judges, who may take part in the adjudication process, like experts in different fields? Yes, in cases including a review of the legality of certain decisions from the municipal council, all under the Government Act and also in cases concerning assessment of tax on property.